Papadopoulos represented Trump campaign at meetings with British officials, Israeli settlers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Papadopoulos represented Trump campaign at meetings with British officials, Israeli settlers

Caputo: Papadopoulos was a coffee boy

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trump’s allies have dismissed the former adviser’s influence
  • But reports show he has acted as a representative for Trump’s presidential campaign in a working capacity

Washington (CNN)He’s been dismissed as a “low-level volunteer” and just a “coffee boy,” but former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos represented the Trump campaign at various meetings with foreign officials up until Inauguration Day.

In October, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI “about the timing, extent, and nature of his relationships and interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials,” according to court filings.
The former adviser pushed to set up a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-candidate Donald Trump and had a meeting in April 2016 with a professor who told him that “the Russians” possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court filings.
Ever since the charges were unsealed last week, Trump’s allies have dismissed the former adviser’s influence.
The President called Papadopoulos a “young, low-level volunteer” on Twitter. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo said he was nothing but a “coffee boy” for the campaign. And White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he was on a “volunteer advisory council that met one time over the course of a year.”
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But reports show he has acted as a representative for Trump’s presidential campaign in a working capacity and as an expert with insight into campaign operations around the world up until January 2017.

Meeting regarding Israel

A video obtained by The Jerusalem Post shows that he met with Israeli settlers around Inauguration Day in Washington.
“We had an excellent meeting with (Yossi Dagan, a leader of a West Bank settler group) and we hope that the people of Judea and Samaria will have a great 2017,” Papadopoulos said. “We are looking forward to ushering in a new relationship with all of Israel, including the historic Judea and Samaria.”
Judea and Samaria are the biblical names used by some in the Israeli government and some pro-Israel groups to argue that the West Bank territory is Jewish land.

AJC panel

At the time of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Papadopoulos spoke at a foreign policy panel hosted by the American Jewish Committee. Other program panelists included Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, and Ted Yoho, R-Florida.
Based on a review of event video, he was not introduced as a campaign adviser. But in remarks, Papadopoulos referenced at least once working for the campaign. He did not discuss issues connected to Russia.
The AJC, in a statement last week, described his participation as part of a broader effort by the group to maintain contacts “among advisers to both parties’ 2016 presidential candidates and in the two parties’ national committees.”
“Among the panelists in our 2016 Republican National Convention program — in a session titled ‘Defining America’s Role in Global Affairs’ — was George Papadopoulos, then a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser,” the statement continued.

Meeting with British government official

Two months before the presidential election, a British government official met with Papadopoulos for a “working level meeting,” a British foreign office spokesperson said in a statement.
“As you would expect in the run-up to an election, we seek to build links with figures in both the Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns. This type of outreach is normal diplomatic business,” the spokesperson said.
The statement said that such meetings are “merely about building links” and added that “representatives of presidential campaigns are treated as private citizens and we would not share confidential information with them.”
  

1 UK hostage killed, 3 freed in Nigeria, foreign office says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

1 UK hostage killed, 3 freed in Nigeria, foreign office says

London (CNN)A British national who was taken hostage in Nigeria has been killed while three others have returned home safely.

Ian Squire was killed after being kidnapped on October 13. Abducted at the same time were Alanna Carson, David Donovan, and Shirley Donovan, according to a statement Monday by the hostages’ families and the UK foreign office.
The families said that Nigerian authorities had helped negotiate their release and they thanked British authorities for their “support.”
“We are delighted and relieved that Alanna, David, and Shirley have returned home safely. Our thoughts are now with the family and friends of Ian as we come to terms with his sad death,” they said.
“This has been a traumatic time for our loved ones who were kidnapped and for their families and friends here in the UK.”
The statement did not make clear who was behind the abductions. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
The four were kidnapped in the country’s oil-rich southern Delta region, Nigerian police there told CNN.
In its travel advice, the UK foreign office warns there is “a high threat of criminal kidnap” in the Delta area and advises against all but essential travel there.

Why The West Grew Rich

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

ABOUT 1,000 years ago, when Europe was supposedly traversing through its dark ages, the Muslim empire was the envy of the world. Its wealth and material standards were such that Cordoba alone was pronounced as the ‘ornament of the world’ by Hrotsvitha, a mediaeval German writer and Nun. By 1500, it was China and India whose riches and wealth became the stuff of fables. By the 17th century, the tide had started turning in favor of northern European nations. By the mid-19th century, this turnaround was complete. What accounts for this transformation?

The literature on this topic, suffice to say, is so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. One can, though, make a general distinction. Some of this literature concerns the question of ‘how’, the other concerns the question ‘why’, with the remaining being a combination of both. In this article, I want to briefly share the findings of two excellent new books on this topic by Jared Rubin (Rulers, Religion and Riches) and Joel Mokyr (A Culture of Growth), that tackle the question of ‘why’.

Rubin’s book concentrates its analysis on the divergence between the West and the Muslim world (especially the Middle East), and what factors gave rise to disparity in development outcomes. He debunks the idea of ‘backwardness’ of the Islamic faith, which supposedly held back the Muslim world. If that were the case, he argues, there never would have been a wealthy Muslim Spain. In general, he traces the great divergence between the West and the Middle East in the way that religion and government interacted over time.

The separation of religion from statecraft set the stage for European ascent.

Before the divergence began, the Christian West and the Muslim East used to derive their authority and legitimacy from religion. The real source of power lay with religious figureheads like the pope, followed by the rulers and their cohorts. Whatever economic activity there was, it was shaped in a way to benefit these entrenched groups. But then Europe gradually broke away from religion as its source of legitimacy. As the tight bond between religion and state loosened, economic and financial concerns became top priorities.

As nation states like Britain and the Netherlands adopted the parliamentary system of governance, the hold of the entrenched classes started to relax since parliamentary legitimacy required participation of the common man. This participation meant they could now stake a claim in the state’s riches, and also realise it through good policies.

What accentuated this break between religion and the state in Europe? One of the most iconic inventions of history, the printing press! In 1440, Gutenberg invented the printing press, revolutionising the spread of knowledge and ideas. Once restricted to only the church, knowledge now began to spread to all parts of Europe as books and pamphlets became easily available to the public. This, over time, gave rise to a movement (reformation and enlightenment) that gradually withered the grip of papacy and kings.

This marvellous invention, however, did not make it to the Muslim world till 1727 as leading religious figures saw it as a threat to their monopoly. They convinced successive sultans not to let this ‘un-Islamic’ invention enter their blessed lands. This 300-year gap, Rubin argues, is one of the most important factors (though not the only one) in explaining the divergence in wealth between the West and the East. At a time when Europe moved towards economic empowerment, technological change and inclusion, the Muslim world’s energies were focused on preserving orthodoxy and exclusion of people from the fruits of knowledge and empowerment.

Mokyr’s book, in contrast, focuses on reformation and enlightenment that drove Europe ahead of others. Why did these not occur in China or the Muslim world and only in Europe? His narration revolves around the political fragmentation in Europe that beset it in the wake of the rise of nation states. Political fragmentation gave rise to fierce competition, not just in commerce and trade but also in ideas which spread as innovations like the printing press made their presence felt.

Nation states, as they raced to embrace science and technology, also competed for leading scholars and thinkers. This spawned a culture of openness, not just in science but also in ideas. No longer did it remain possible to repress ideas and criticism since critics could now always find refuge in another state open to ideas and criticism. This cycle of openness became unstoppable with time, and complemented advances in technology and knowledge. This, argues Mokyr, explains to a large degree why European nation states were able to leave others behind.

To summarise, for Rubin, the answer lies in legitimacy derived from religion changing to legitimacy derived through people. This was made possible by inventions like the printing press, which tilted the balance in favour of trade, commerce and the people. For Mokyr, the answer is to be found in a cultural change brought on by the rise of nation states, their intense competition in various spheres of life and political fragmentation within Europe. Importantly, a common strand in both these books is to be found in the separation of religion from statecraft which set the stage for European ascent.

The above is but a tiny fraction of the wealth of knowledge available on this particular topic, and in no way does justice to such an important question. Interested readers can access hundreds of books and other material to contemplate this issue, such as the outstanding Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, or How the West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg. What can be concluded is that there is no single factor that can explain the rise of the West. It’s the coming together of a host of factors that propelled economic growth. What we also know is that almost 500 years since this divergence in Europe’s favour is supposed to have begun, the pendulum is now again swinging towards the East (China and India, for example). Their rise is another interesting story, perhaps worthy of a future column.

The writer is an economist.

[email protected]

Twitter:@ShahidMohmand79

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

 

 

Four British Soldiers Arrested Over Involvement in a Banned Nazi Terror Group

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME AND THE BBC)

 

Four British Soldiers Arrested Over Involvement in a Banned Nazi Terror Group

10:30 PM ET

Four active duty members of the British Army have been arrested, under the country’s anti-terror laws, on alleged involvement in a banned neo-nazi group.

Along with a fifth person, a civilian, they are suspected of being members of National Action, the first far-right group to be banned in the U.K. for promoting violence and terrorist acts, reports BBC News.

Police said that no public safety threat was involved.

“We can confirm that a number of serving members of the Army have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for being associated with a proscribed far-right group,” a spokesperson for the British Army told the BBC.

One of the arrested soldiers was detained in a U.K. military base in Cyprus, reports the BBC, while the others were being held in a police station in West Midlands.

National Action is described by anti-terror officials as “explicitly neo-Nazi.” British Home Secretary Amber Rudd called it “a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organization” when she announced its ban last December.

Being members of a proscribed group, or merely inviting support for one, carries up to 10 years’ imprisonment in the U.K. if convicted, the BBC says.

[BBC]

‘Our beautiful little boy has gone’: Parents of Charlie Gard say he has died

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

‘Our beautiful little boy has gone’: Parents of Charlie Gard say he has died

 July 28 at 6:20 PM
The lengthy legal battle over Charlie Gard
Charlie Gard’s parents ended their legal fight over the terminally ill infant’s treatment July 24. Here’s what you need to know about the legal battle over his life. (Monica Akhtar, Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

After months of fighting for Charlie Gard’s life — then pleading for time to bid him goodbye — the terminally ill British infant’s parents said Friday that he had died.

The 11-month-old boy’s case had elicited sympathy and support from Pope Francis and President Trump and inflamed an international debate over end-of-life rights.

His parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, announced his death a day after a British court ruled that the infant should be moved to hospice care and removed from a ventilator — as the pair pleaded for a few more days with their son, a spokesman for the family told BBC Newsthe Guardian and the Associated Press.

“Our beautiful little boy has gone,” Yates said Friday in a statement, according to British news reports. “We are so proud of you Charlie.”

The somber news of Charlie’s death reverberated across the world Friday evening.

Francis wrote in a message on social media, “I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “deeply saddened” and extended her “thoughts and prayers” to Charlie’s parents, according to BBC News. Vice President Pence‏ said on Twitter that he was “saddened to hear of the passing of Charlie Gard.”

I entrust little Charlie to the Father and pray for his parents and all those who loved him.

For several months, Charlie’s parents had been fighting in court to keep him alive. His case became the embodiment of a passionate debate over his right to live or die, his parents’ right to choose for their child and whether his doctors had an obligation to intervene in his care.

The bitter legal battle came to an exhausting and emotional end Thursday when High Court Judge Nicholas Francis made the decision to move Charlie to hospice care and let him die after Charlie’s parents and doctors could not agree on how much time the child should have to live. The judge said Charlie should be removed from the ventilator, which “will inevitably result in Charlie’s death within a short period of time thereafter.”

His parents had also lost a fight to let him die at home.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, which had been treating Charlie, said it had been “a uniquely painful and distressing process” for everyone.

Charlie, who was born with a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, sustained brain damage that had taken away his ability to see, hear and breathe on his own.

His parents had raised money to take him to the United States for an experimental treatment they had not yet tried, but doctors at Great Ormond Street asserted that the child had no chance of survival. The case trickled through the British court system and ended up in the European Court of Human Rights, which declined to hear it, upholding previous court rulings that it was in Charlie’s best interest to let him die.

It was that decision that thrust Charlie’s case into the international spotlight.

In June, the Vatican’s children’s hospital said it would admit the boy, with the pope saying on social media that “to defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to all.”

To defend human life, above all when it is wounded by illness, is a duty of love that God entrusts to us all.

Charlie’s parents said the support had given them renewed hope. Hospitals in Rome and New York opened their doors, and the High Court gave his parents the opportunity to present evidence in the case.

Michio Hirano, a neurology expert at Columbia Medical Center in New York, and the Vatican’s Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital initially said the experimental medical treatment might help Charlie, according to the Associated Press. But Great Ormond Street said that idea had done nothing more than give Charlie’s parents false hope that their son could recover.

Given the American invitations to assist Charlie, the court case also raised significant differences between British and American ethical approaches to experimental treatments.

In the United States, patients can be given certain drugs even if it is known that the drugs in question will not improve their condition, insofar as knowledge of their effects may improve the conditions of others in the future.

The same it is not the case in the United Kingdom, where, by contrast, doctors cannot administer treatments that know will not improve the patient’s condition in a specific case.

It was decided earlier this week that Charlie’s parents should let him go, when it became clear that the experimental treatment they wanted for their son was no longer possible.

After further medical tests, Chris Gard told reporters, “we’ve decided it is no longer in Charlie’s best interest to pursue treatment, and we will let our son go and be with the angels.”

“Had Charlie been given the treatment sooner, he would have had the potential to be a normal, healthy little boy,” Gard added. “We will have to live with the what-ifs that will haunt us for the rest of our lives.”

After Charlie’s death, Great Ormond Street said in a statement that it sent “heartfelt condolences to Charlie’s parents and loved-ones at this very sad time.”

This story has been updated. James McAuley contributed to this report from Paris.

Read more:

After losing battle to keep Charlie Gard alive, his parents are fighting to let him die at home

Charlie Gard not allowed to receive Vatican’s care, hospital spokesman says

Charlie Gard may have new hope: Hospital asks court to rehear case of terminally ill infant

Charlie Gard’s parents to present new evidence in case surrounding terminally ill son

10 Interesting facts about London

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘DEBLOGTROOP’ BLOG)

 

10 Interesting facts about London

Disclosure: Some posts may contains affiliate links, which means we receive commission if you make a purchase using these links.

Fact#1: “Big Ben” is not the clock tower.

Big Ben London

The Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the tower. The tower itself is called the “Elizabeth Tower”. The tower is currently tilting to one side, similar to the leaning tower of Pisa! This is partly as a result of decades of underground excavation.

Fact#2: It’s the most visited city in the world.

London England

In 2014, London attracted over 16 million international visitors, setting a record of the most visited city in the world.

Fact#3: Taxi drivers in London have to take a test called “knowledge test”.

London Cab

The black cab taxi drivers have to pass the insanely difficult geography test called the “knowledge test”. They are expected to master 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets that are scattered within those routes and just about 20,000 landmarks and places of interest within a six-mile radius of Charring Cross. So if you see someone on a scooter with a large map, it could most probably be an aspiring cabbie studying for the “knowledge test”.

Fact#4: The Palace of Westminster is the largest palace in the country.

Westminster Big Ben London

The houses of parliament are known as the Palace of Westminster. It is the largest palace in the country consisting of 6 restaurants, 8 bars, 1000 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards, a hair salon and a rifle shooting range. Fun fact: It is illegal to die in the Palace of Westminster.

Fact#5: London tried building its own Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower France Parise London

In 1889, London started to build a structure designed to surpass the Eiffel Tower in height but it was unsteady and was never completed. It was later on demolished in 1907.

Fact#6: About 40% of Greater London is green space.

London England

There is a lot of greenery is the city of greater London, the whole city is covered in green. With over 8 million trees in London, London can be classified as a forest according to a UN definition.

Fact#7: The city of London is one of the smallest in the UK.

London Downing Street

The core city of London is actually the smallest city in London stretching up to only 1.12 square miles with a population of around 7000. However, the area which developed around the core city called Greater London consists of about 8.5 million people and it is large enough to fit 4 New York Cities.

Fact#8: There is a cereal café in London.

Cereal Killer Cafe London

There is a special café in London that serves hundreds of varieties of breakfast cereals from around the world. The name of the café is “Cereal Killer Café”.

Fact#9: The world’s first traffic light signal was installed in London.

London Traffic Lights

The world’s first traffic light signal was installed in London in the year 1868 at the junction of Great George St and Bridge St near Westminster Palace in London. However, it was short-lived, as it exploded less than a month later injuring the operating police officer.

Fact#10: “London Eye” is the most popular tourist attraction in London.

London Eye

The London Eye is the name of a huge Ferris wheel located on the south bank of River Thames. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. It was the tallest in the world until 2006 when the Star of Nanchang in China surpassed it.

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

UK wants to send ‘colossal’ warships to test Beijing’s claims in S. China Sea

Story highlights

  • British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said carriers will embark on freedom of navigation exercises
  •  Beijing says “certain outside countries” attempting to “stir up trouble”

Hong Kong (CNN) China has hit back at the UK after the country’s foreign secretary said two British aircraft carriers could be sent to patrol the South China Sea.

Speaking Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said “certain outside countries are determined to stir up trouble” in the region.
“Whatever banners these countries or officials claim to uphold, and whatever excuses they claim to have, their track record of bringing chaos and humanitarian disasters through their so-called moral interventions in other parts of the world is enough to make nations and peoples in the region maintain high vigilance,” he added.
His remarks come after UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, speaking in Australia Thursday, said “one of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area.”
Johnson did not specify exactly where the carriers would be sent, but added the operation was designed to “vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.”
In an interview with the Reuters news agency, UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the deployment area was not finalized “but we won’t be constrained by China from sailing through the South China Sea.”

Johnson spoke alongside Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Speaking at an event in Sydney Thursday evening, Johnson urged all parties in the South China Sea “to respect freedom of navigation and international law” and suggested the UK could sail ships through the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea, and has heavily militarized some islands in the region and expanded other territories with major land reclamation work, turning sandbars into islands and equipping them with airfields, ports and weapons systems.
All or parts of the sea are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which has led to intense territorial disputes and naval stand-offs.

The new UK Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth departs Rosyth dockyard in Scotland to be tested in the North Sea on June 26, 2017.

Freedom of navigation

Beijing has accused the United States of creating a “serious political and military provocation” by conducting similar freedom of navigation operations.
US, Canadian, Australian and Japanese warships conducted a freedom of navigation operation this month, according to Canada’s National Post, during which they were shadowed by Chinese naval vessels.
Neither the UK or US recognize Beijing’s territorial claims — which were largely thrown out by an international tribunal last year — and maintain vessels should be able to pass through the waters around the islands occupied by China the same as other international waters.
The South China Sea sees $5 trillion in shipborne trade every year, and also has major fishing and energy resources.
That the UK is apparently taking sides in the dispute is likely to especially rankle in Beijing, where memories of China’s so-called “century of humiliation,” during which it suffered embarrassing defeat to the UK in the Opium Wars, are still fresh — and kept so by state propaganda and the country’s education system.
Speaking in Hong Kong this month to mark 20 years since the city was handed over from the UK to China, the country’s president, Xi Jinping, said that China “was again and again beaten by countries having far smaller territories and populations than itself … the history of China at that time was filled with the nation’s humiliation and its people’s grief.”

Waning ties

Under former British Prime Minister David Cameron, London had warmed to Beijing, and Cameron had hailed a new “golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
The luster has faded somewhat in the wake of Brexit however. The European Union is China’s largest trading partner. The UK’s decision to leave the bloc has shattered any assumptions about a tight London-Beijing relationship acting as a gateway to the wider EU.
Cameron’s successor Theresa May has also brought the UK closer to the US, visiting Donald Trump in Washington and seeking to improve economic ties with the US to make up for lost European trade.
Speaking Thursday evening, Johnson emphasized the deployment of the UK’s carriers — the 280 meter and 65,000 tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, neither of which is yet fully commissioned — was “not because we have enemies in the region … but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
The vessels have cost British taxpayers upwards of $8.1 billion and been subject to criticism for taking up a large chunk of the UK’s defense budget. The carriers are designed to support F-35 fighter jets, which the UK will not have until 2020, according to the National Audit Office.
Johnson did not give a timeline as to when any South China Sea deployment by the carriers is likely to start. His comments come after the Royal Navy shadowed a Chinese flotilla through the English Channel on its way to exercises with the Russian fleet in the Baltic Sea.

Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE BBC)

A Report Claims That Saudi Arabia Has a ‘Clear Link’ to Violent Jihadist Groups in the U.K.

6:01 AM ET

A report by a British think tank claims that Saudi Arabia is the principle foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the United Kingdom and alleges a “clear and growing link” between overseas funding and violent Jihadist groups in the country.

The Henry Jackson Society — a neo-conservative think tank — also urges a public inquiry into the funding of terrorism by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, the BBC reports.

The calls comes as U.K. lawmakers face mounting pressure to release the findings of their own probe into domestic extremist groups, instigated by former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015. In May, the Home Office described the findings as “very sensitive” and said it that they wouldn’t necessarily be made public.

Read more: Middle East Rifts Are Widening Amid a Global Power Vacuum

Like the United States, the U.K. has deep and convoluted security and economic ties with Saudi Arabia. In an April visit, British Prime Minister Theresa May reaffirmed the importance of the relationship. However, British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has lobbied for a block on arms exports to Saudi Arabia on the grounds of the Kingdom’s military action in Yemen and its poor human rights record.

In a statement cited by the BBC, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London dismissed the findings of the Henry Jackson Society as “categorically false” and said they lacked “credible evidence.”

[BBC]

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Syrian Refugee Identified as First Victim in London Tower Fire as Toll Set to Rise

London

A Syrian refugee has been named as the first victim of the towerblock inferno in London as officials expected the death toll in the tragedy to rise dramatically.

Syrian refugee Mohammed Alhajali has been identified on Friday as a victim in the fire. His brother Omar broke down in tears as he told how Mohammed got trapped in the burning block as they both tried to flee their 14th floor home.

Scores of people are feared dead after the massive blaze tore through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in West London just after midnight on Wednesday.

London police said there is nothing to suggest that fire was started deliberately.

Omar, who initially thought his brother had escaped, spoke to Mohammed by phone from outside the block as he watched it engulfed in flames and thick black smoke.

“He said: ‘Why (have) you left me…?’ He said: “I’m dying. I cannot breathe,” Omar told the BBC.

“We came from Syria to be safe here, and now we’re dying.”

Mohammed, reported to be 23, came to Britain in 2014 and was studying engineering in London.
The Syria Solidarity Campaign said Mohammed had tried to call his family in Syria during the fire but could not get connected. He had not seen his family for four years.

“When the fire reached his flat … Mohammed bid his friend and brothers goodbye, saying that the fire had reached him. He asked them to pass on the message to his family in Syria,” the charity said in a statement.

“Mohammed undertook a dangerous journey to flee war and death in Syria, only to meet it here in the UK, in his own home.”

The charity said Mohammed had dreamed that he would one day be able to go back and help rebuild Syria. It called for a “thorough investigation” into building regulations, adding: “Mohammed came to this country for safety and the UK failed to protect him.”

Up to 600 people lived in the social housing block in more than 120 apartments. The official death toll stood at 30 on Friday but is expected to soar. Firefighters say they do not expect to find more survivors.

Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy responded to speculation that the number of dead could exceed 100, saying: “From a personal perspective, I really hope it isn’t.”

“The investigation will look in into what criminal offenses may have been committed,” he added.

Firefighters searching the smoldering ruin in west London have recovered six bodies from the tower, while 11 others have been located but cannot yet be removed from the gutted structure.

Families searching for their loved ones have blanketed the area near the tower with posters searching for answers, and sorrow is quickly turning to anger over whether recent building works were properly done.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince William had arrived at a London site where community groups have gathered supplies for those affected by the tower fire disaster.

The queen is meeting with volunteers Friday and she has expressed her sympathies to families of victims. More than 1 million pounds ($1.27 million) has been raised to help victims of the fire

British Prime Minister Theresa May visited on Friday those injured in the fire after facing fierce criticism for attending the site but not meeting with residents.

She visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which is treating eight people. Three are in critical condition.

May pledged on Thursday to hold a public inquiry into a fire that engulfed the building, but she has been widely attacked for not meeting with residents, sending ministers to do so instead.

The tower is in the North Kensington neighborhood, a working-class, multi-ethnic area next to some of the richest neighborhoods in Britain. Some observers asked whether hazards in the Grenfell complex were ignored because its residents are mainly poor.

A tenant group had complained for years about the risk of a fire in the building, owned by the local government in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Fire safety engineers were stunned at how rapidly the fire spread, engulfing the building in less than an hour in the middle of the night and preventing firefighters from reaching many people inside.

Authorities have refused to speculate on what could have started the blaze. But the focus has turned to renovations completed last year that added decorative touches to the building.

The project included installing insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a communal heating system.

Britain’s government has ordered checks at towers going through similar renovations, and some London neighborhood authorities said Thursday they’d do extra fire-safety assessments at public housing high-rises.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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London Fire: At Least 6 Dead After Blaze Engulfs Apartment Tower

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

LONDON — A fire transformed a high-rise apartment tower in West London into an inferno early Wednesday morning, sending at least at least 64 people to hospitals and raising fears that others might have been trapped inside. The Metropolitan Police confirmed that six people had died and warned that the figure would almost certainly rise.

“In my 29 years of being a firefighter, I have never, ever seen anything of this scale,” said Dany Cotton, commissioner of the London Fire Brigade.

By the early afternoon, more than 200 firefighters from all over London were continuing to extinguish the remnants of the fire and to search for survivors, long after the blaze broke out at 1:16 a.m. in Grenfell Tower, in the North Kensington area. Constructed in 1974, the building has 24 stories, with 120 apartments across 20 residential floors.

“In my 29 years of being a
firefighter, I have never,
ever seen anything of this scale.”DANY COTTON, THE COMMISSIONER OF LONDON’S FIRE BRIGADE

The cause of the fire was not immediately known. Commissioner Cotton said the precise number of deaths had not yet been determined because of “the size and complexity of this building.”

Adib Abbas was visiting a cousin who lives on the ninth floor of the building. He said he was preparing a meal before their daily Ramadan fast when he smelled gas and then heard people in the floors below shouting.

“I opened the door and everyone was shouting ‘fire, fire, get back in,’” Mr. Abbas said. “Then a neighbor called my cousin and told us to wait for the Fire Brigade. We were terrified and thought about trying to get out the window. There were people dangling out the windows trying to get out.”

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Local residents watching the fire. CreditDaniel Leal-Olivas/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My cousin had his kids with him, and they started crying and screaming when the smoke started coming in. There was no way out, we were stuck, and no one was coming to help us,” Mr. Abbas added. “I don’t know how long it took, but it felt like ages before we got out. I could see people lying on the floor as we were being pulled out. I think a lot of people died. It’s a nightmare.”

The Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top of the 24-story building; aerial photographs showed the charred, blackened and still smoking ruins looming over West London.

Forty fire trucks were involved in fighting the blaze, and more than 20 ambulances were sent to the scene. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 patients to six hospitals. Twenty were in critical condition.

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Columns of thick smoke. The London Ambulance Service said it had taken at least 64 people to six hospitals. CreditAndy Rain/European Pressphoto Agency

Cmdr. Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said the process of tracking everyone who was unaccounted for was “very complex,” and urged survivors to call a hotline set up to establish the condition of all the building’s residents. He said the Fire Brigade had arrived within six minutes of being called.

Alison Evans, who lives near Grenfell Tower, woke to the sounds of sirens and helicopters and watched the fire engulf the building from a nearby street.

“It just kept burning and burning for hours and for hours there were still people at the top of the building screaming for help,” she said. “It was hell to watch. We were watching people dying. I can’t imagine how many people must have died in there.”

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Firefighters training hoses on the building. A residents’ association has regularly complained in its newsletter of fire hazards in the building and what it called inattention by the landlord.CreditLeon Neal/Getty Images

At dawn, the blaze still burned brightly against the pale sky, with columns of thick black smoke ascending. Ashes filled the air, and small explosions could be heard as helicopters flew overhead. Firefighters on the ground trained hoses on the building. The police were extending their cordon around the building and pushing people back, apparently fearing that the tower could collapse.

Abdul Kadiri, who stood with his family watching the fire, said he had heard sirens about 1:45 a.m.

“My friend lives with his family on the 15th floor of the building,” he said. “I called my friend, and he had no idea what was going on. I told him to grab his family and get out, and he hung up.”

When the friend got out safely, Mr. Kadiri said, “he told me there was smoke everywhere, and he got out with the help of the firefighters who were on the fourth floor. He was a real mess and didn’t say much.

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A man inside the burning building. The London Fire Brigade said the flames had spread from the second floor to the top floor. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

“He was just so happy to be out of there,” Mr. Kadri said. “He was crying thinking of all the children that would have been asleep on the higher floors and probably weren’t able to get out.”

Another resident, Hanan Wahabi, said she had spoken by phone to her brother, who was on the 21st floor, and urged him to leave. But he said firefighters had told him to stay in place until he could be rescued. Since then, she had been unable to reach him.

“I have done a lot of crying,” she said.

Meriam Antur was asleep on the 19th floor with her two children, her husband away, when she woke to the sound of sirens, followed by shouting in the corridors. “I panicked and called my husband while trying to put on my hijab so I could go and see what was happening,” she said. “I couldn’t get through, so I called my cousin, who told me to get out.”

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A resident in a nearby building. More than 200 firefighters from all over London were struggling to contain the blaze. CreditMatt Dunham/Associated Press

When she opened her apartment door, Ms. Antur said, “my neighbors were running back and forth in the corridor shouting at each other. I didn’t understand until my friend came in and said we had to wait for the firemen and couldn’t go down.”

“I was so scared. It took so long, my children were crying, and I’m pregnant,” she said, clasping her belly. “I was so scared. I thought we were going to die.”

Paramedics led Ms. Antur and her children away to be checked at a hospital. In the background, a woman ran barefoot down the street in her nightgown, screaming the name Elsa. Ms. Antur’s cousin said it was a neighbor who could not find her 6-year-old daughter.

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Firefighters in a children’s playground covered in debris from the burning tower nearby. CreditNeil Hall/Reuters

In the early hours of the fire, witnesses said they could see lights — thought to be flashlights — blinking at the top of the building.

Bruce Evans, who lives nearby, said that a family of four he is friendly with — including a baby — had escaped from the ninth floor via the main stairs.

“The mum heard screaming and shouting, looked out of the window and saw flames. She said she has shouted ‘Oh my God, it’s fire! Let’s go,’” he said. “They are at the hospital now having checks on the baby.”

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At least 40 fire engines were at the scene. CreditToby Melville/Reuters

Mr. Evans said that he was told that the fire had started on the fourth floor and that the occupant of the apartment in which it started had alerted other residents on that floor.

A residents’ association, the Grenfell Action Group, had been warning for years about fire hazards in the building and the surrounding area, and what it called inattention by the landlord.

According to the Get West London website, the Grenfell Tower block completed a renovation costing 10 million pounds, or $12.8 million, in May 2016. The upgrade — which included the installation of insulated exterior cladding, double-glazed windows and a new communal heating system — was financed by the local council, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, as part of a multimillion-dollar improvement project in the area.

In a blog post, the group wrote that the “the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring.” It asserted that “our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO,” with help from the borough’s security committee, “who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.”

The management organization’s chief executive, Robert Black, said in a statement: “The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heartbreaking. Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.” He did not address the complaints raised by the Grenfell Action Group.

Rydon, the construction company that carried out the renovation, said in a statement that the work “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

“We will cooperate with the relevant authorities and emergency services and fully support their enquiries into the causes of this fire at the appropriate time,” the company added.

8COMMENTS

At the time the renovation was announced, in 2014, the management organization said in a statement that “residents of the tower have long had to put up with a substandard heating system and poor insulation,” and that a new heating system would allow them to set the temperatures in their units.

Kensington and Chelsea is one of 32 boroughs that make up London, along with the City, London’s financial district.

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